Evangelical Trump Fans: Don’t Forget to Buy Your King Cyrus-Donald Trump Prayer Coin

Cyrus-Trump-Coin-2019-2.png

In Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, I wrote a several pages on the so-called INC (Independent Network Charismatics) prophets.  Lance Wallnau is one of these “prophets.”  Here is what I wrote about him:

Early in the 2016 campaign, Lance Wallnau received a similar word: “Donald Trump is a wrecking ball to the spirit of political correctness.”  When Wallnau’s prophecy caught the attention of Trump’s evangelical supporters, he was invited to attend a meeting with the candidate and other evangelical leaders in Trump Tower.  As Wallnau listened to Trump talk about his desire to give evangelicals a more prominent voice in government, he sensed that God was giving him an “assignment”–a “calling related to this guy.”  One day, while he was reading his Facebook page, Wallnau saw a meme predicting that Trump would be the “45 president of the United States.”  God told Wallnau to pick up his Bible and turn to Isaiah 45.  On reading the passage, Wallnau realized that, not only would Trump be a “wrecking ball” to political correctness, but he would be elected president of the United States in the spirit of the ancient Persian king Cyrus.  In the Old Testament, Cyrus  was the secular political leader whom God used to send the exiled kingdom of Judah back to the Promised Land so that they could rebuild the city of Jerusalem and its holy Temple.  Wallnau was shocked by this discovery.  “God was messing with my head,” he told Steven Strang, the editor of Charisma, a magazine that covers INC and other Pentecostal and charismatic movements….From this point forward, Wallnau would become an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump.

Recently Wallnau showed-up on the Jim Bakker television program to hawk his Cyrus-Trump prayer coins.  According to this piece at Esquire magazine, Wallnau said that the coin is the “point of contact” between God and people praying for Trump’s success.  And guess what? This coin can be yours for only $45.00.  Here is Jack Holmes at Esquire:

This truly is the Golden Age of Grifting, and the nation’s Evangelical leaders have not passed up the opportunity. The “White Evangelical Christian” designation has always been a proxy for traditionalists who believe America’s rightful social order is the racial and gender hierarchy of approximately 1956. Donald Trump has merely laid this bare by earning their support despite being the most comically heathen man to ever step foot in the White House. What principles of Jesus Christ does the president embody? The better question might be which of the Seven Deadly Sins—pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth—does he not  represent? It’s all part of the Great Unvarnishing, as the acidity of Trump’s public persona has worn on the top coat of paint many people have applied to themselves, gradually exposing what lies beneath. It’s not about Christian Values, it’s about money and power. Unless it’s about something else.

And for those Trump evangelical supporters with deeper pockets, you can get an entire “Cyrus Trump Bundle.”  It includes the Cyrus-Trump coin, a booklet by Wallnau describing his prophecy, and DVD of Wallnau conducting a religious service.  It’s yours for $450.

As I argued in Believe Me, the Independent Network Charismatics are a very large, growing, and largely overlooked segment of American evangelicalism.  Wallnau is one of their leaders.

More on Donald Trump and the Johnson Amendment

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Here is what I wrote about Trump and the so-called “Johnson Amendment” in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

Another religious-liberty issue that concerns many of the court evangelicals is the clause in the IRS tax code commonly referred to as the Johnson Amendment.  The Johnson Amendment is a part of the code that forbids tax-exempt organizations such as churches from endorsing political candidates.  Since 1954, when the Johnson Amendment was added to the code, only one church has ever lost its tax-exempt status for violating it.  Trump first learned about the amendment during some of his early meetings with evangelicals in Trump Tower.  Since that time he has become fixated on it: he realized that the IRS would not allow evangelical pastors to endorse him or any other candidate without losing their tax-exempt status.  Trump promised his evangelical supporters that, if elected, he would bring an end to the Johnson Amendment.

For many evangelicals and their followers, Trump fulfilled that promise on May 4, 2017.  In an outdoor ceremony at the White House, with court evangelicals and other religious leaders by his side, Donald Trump issued an executive order on religious liberty.   Section 2 of the order included the statement: “In particular, the Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure, to the extent permitted by law, that the Department of the Treasury does not take any action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organizations on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues from a religious perspective.”  The statement was a reference to the Johnson Amendment without explicitly naming it.  After he signed the order, Trump told the faith leaders present: “You’re now in a position to say what you want to say…no one should be censoring sermons or targeting pastors.”

Court evangelicals cheered the new order, but in reality it did absolutely nothing to change the Johnson Amendment. The order was little more than a symbolic gesture meant to appease evangelicals and keep their support.  What may have been a public relations victory for Trump and the court evangelicals did not amount to anything because the president does not have the authority to change the tax code–that job belongs to Congress.  And when Congress did overhaul the tax code in December 2017, the Johnson Amendment was not removed.

Over at The Washington Post, Salvador Rizzo traces Trump’s history with the Johnson Amendment.  Here is a taste:

Trump says he got rid of the Johnson Amendment. It’s still on the books.

The president sometimes implies that he got rid of the amendment with an executive order. Nope.

He claims that religious leaders were being silenced before his executive order. Not quite. They were prohibited from supporting or endorsing political candidates in their official capacities, and continue to be barred from doing so as a condition of their tax-exempt status.

This is a campaign promise Trump has not fulfilled. It’s also a false claim worth Four Pinocchios.

Read the entire piece here.

The *Believe Me* Book Tour Comes to a Soft Close in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Believe Me 3dMy book Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump is scheduled to appear in paperback in January 2020, just in time for the primary season.  I imagine the speaking invitations might pick up between now and the 2020 election, but yesterday marked the last scheduled event on the tour.  I have been on the road with this book (off and on, of course) since June 2018.  If am counting correctly, I have appeared before forty-two flesh and blood audiences to talk about the book and multiple podcasts and radio shows and two appearances on both C-SPAN and CNN.

I remain passionate about explaining the historical forces at work that led 81% of white evangelicals (my tribe) to vote for Donald Trump in 2016.  I remain equally passionate about trying to convince my fellow evangelicals that this was a bad idea.  Some have accused me of having Trump derangement syndrome.  Perhaps this is true, but I refuse to stand by and let the immoral Trump presidency become the new normal.  The country and the church can do much better.  So feel free to reach out if you are still interested in a talk at your church, campus, or bookstore.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon speaking to the members of the Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness.  It was a friendly audience who had a lot of very good questions.  I fielded questions about Christian Zionism and Trump, the possibilities of a progressive Christian political witness, the racial divide in the evangelical community, and whether or not the answer to political partisanship in America is another Jonathan Edwards-like revival.

Thanks to Barry Stoner for the invitation and for Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Bookstore for providing the books for signing.

Trump Campaign Manager: “Only God could deliver such a savior to our nation”

As my buddy John Haas recently asked me: “Is it time to declare Trumpism a heresy?”

And then there is this:

HT: John Haas.

And if you need some help making sense of it all there is this:

Believe Me 3d

 

Discrimination Against Evangelicals and the Evangelical Victimization Narrative

Evangelicals 2

Earlier this month I was at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the Boston area for a panel discussion with Dartmouth religion scholar Randall Balmer on “Evangelicals and Politics.”  Mark Massa of Boston College’s Boisi Center served as the moderator.

Massa asked us if evangelicals had a “distinctive political style.”  I suggested, as I did in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, that much of evangelical politics is defined by fear, power, and nostalgia.

Balmer summarized evangelical’s political style in one word: “victimization.”  I thought about his answer again after reading Griffin Paul Jackson’s recent piece at Christianity Today: “Half of Americans Say Evangelical are Discriminated Against.”  Here is a taste:

Though evangelical Protestants remain the largest faith group in the country, as clashes over their beliefs turn up in the public square, half the country has come to believe evangelicals face discrimination in the US.

A new report from the Pew Research Center reveals that Americans see discrimination on the rise or holding steady across demographic groups, with evangelical Christians and Jews experiencing a significant uptick over the past few years.

Fifty percent of US adults agree that evangelical Christians are subject to discrimination, up from 42 percent in 2016. One in five (18%) say that evangelicals—about a quarter of the population—face “a lot” of discrimination.

Read the rest here.

Evangelicals only represent about 25% of the American population.  This means that a lot of non-evangelical Americans also believe that evangelicals face discrimination.  As the readers of this blog know, I am not a fan of the victimization narrative that defines much of political discourse on the Christian Right.  Balmer is right.  But I also think some of the discrimination of evangelicals is probably real.  Perhaps we brought it upon ourselves, but it is nonetheless real.  I wrote about this a few years ago at Aeon.

A Visit to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Gordon Conwell

I spent Monday night at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Massachusetts (Boston-area).  Thanks to Gordon-Conwell president Dennis Hollinger for the invitation and Mary Ann Hollinger for her hospitality.

The Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life sponsored conversation on evangelicals and politics that included Boisi director (and Jesuit theologian) Mark Massa, Dartmouth historian of American evangelicalism Randall Balmer, and yours truly.

A few takeaways:

  1. Gordon-Conwell is a seminary founded by mid-century evangelical stalwarts Billy Graham, J. Howard Pew and J. Harold Ockenga.  Over the last fifty years it has been an institutional fixture on the evangelical landscape.  During the course of the evening I did not meet a single Trump supporter.  This is the first time that I have been at a self-identified evangelical institution where I did not meet someone who wanted to make the case for Trump.
  2. I talked with several pastors-in-training (MDiv students) who wanted advice about how to deal with Trump supporters in their future congregations.  My advice:  preach the Gospel in season and out of season.   I hope they will avoid bringing politics into the pulpit, but rather preach in a positive way about what the Bible teaches regarding truth and lying, welcoming the stranger, caring for the “least of these,” loving neighbors,” the dignity of human life, and the pursuit of holiness.  I encouraged them, to borrow a term from Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter, to be “faithfully present” in the congregations and communities where God calls them to serve.
  3.  All of the evangelical millennials I chatted with were fed-up with Trump and the Christian Right.  It seems like a sea-change is coming.
  4.  During the formal conversation, Gordon-Conwell theology and missions professor Peter Kuzmic talked about how his fellow evangelicals in Eastern Europe were appalled that American evangelicals supported Trump.  I asked him publicly if the evangelical support of Donald Trump was hindering the work of the Gospel in Eastern Europe.  He did not miss a beat in saying “yes.”  This is tragic.  It is the case I have been making during the Believe Me book tour.  I told Kuzmic that I would like to take him with me on the road.  His testimony was a powerful one.  While court evangelicals continue to take victory laps over securing an originalist judiciary that might overturn Roe v. Wade, the witness of the Gospel is becoming more difficult, especially for missionaries.
  5. We talked a lot of about “fracture” within the evangelical community.  The days of a unified neo-evangelicalism (if there ever was such a thing) are over.  George Marsden once said that an evangelical is someone who likes Billy Graham.  Well, Billy Graham is now dead and there will be no one to replace him.  This is not a statement about whether or not there are any potential heirs to Graham.  It is rather a statement about the current state of American culture, a state that Princeton historian Daniel T. Rodgers has called the “Age of Fracture.” I want to write more about this.
  6. It was an honor to share the stage and the evening with Randall Balmer, a scholar who has taught me so much about evangelicalism.

Free Excerpt from *Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump*

Believe Me 3dWhat is perhaps most disturbing about [Dallas megachurch pastor Robert] Jeffress’s [book] Twlight’s Last Gleaming is the way in which his deeply held passion for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others is neutralized by his political agenda.  The book begins with a foreword by former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee: “If you are looking for a sweet little ‘bookette’ that is politically correct and safe to read and share with staunch unbelievers so as not to offend them, then put this book down and keep looking.”  In the first sentence of the first page, Huckabee alienates unbelievers and, in the process, undermines everything Jeffress says in the book about the importance of evangelism.  But Jeffress proves in the pages that follow that he does not need Huckabee’s help in weakening his gospel witness.  Jeffress urges his readers to give up on the culture wars and focus on their “unprecedented chance” in these final days of humankind to “point people to the hope of Jesus Christ.”  Then he spends the rest of his book teaching readers how to more effectively win the culture wars.  At one point in the book Jeffress attributes the steep decline in the number of new converts baptized in the Southern Baptist Church to spiritually weak church members who are afraid to offend anyone with the claims of the gospel.  Jeffress may be correct.  But the possibility that the decline in baptisms is related to the fact that most Americans now associate the gospel with partisan politics does not appear to have even crossed his mind.

Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, p. 128-129.

Penn State–New Kensington Recap

New Kensington

On Tuesday night I was at Penn State University–New Kensington in western Pennsylvania.  I spoke to John Craig Hammond‘s Religion in American Culture course (he is using both Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? and Believe Me in this course) and I gave a public lecture on some of the themes covered in Believe Me.

The students in the class had just read chapter 2 of Believe Me and many of them came to class with plenty of questions for me.  A few students asked about how I navigate my Christian faith and my work as a historian.  Another student wanted to talk about the inerrancy of the Bible.  One student wondered why I focused Believe Me on “white” evangelicals.

After class I met with two evangelical students and a Hindu student who wanted to talk more deeply about religion and politics in America.  After this short chat we headed off to dinner with ten of Hammond’s first-year honor students.  After dinner we talked about the fate of American Democracy and how these students might contribute to a flourishing republic.  If you want to hear more about this conversation, I talked about it briefly on Episode 49 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.  Download the episode when it drops next week.  (Our guest is Princeton historian and CNN commentator Julian Zelizer).

My evening lecture drew a mixed group of students, anti-Trumpers, and pro-Trump evangelicals.  The pro-Trumpers were most vocal during the question and answer session.  An older African-American woman said that God led her to vote for Trump after she spent a long period of time in prayer.  She also said she voted for Trump because she was pro-life and believed Trump would appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, believed in traditional marriage, and thought that God was still working through the nation of Israel. I told her that if I believed Roe v. Wade was the best way to reduce abortions, same-sex couples should  be denied civil rights, and the Bible taught that the return of the Jews to Israel would usher in the return of Jesus Christ, then I might consider voting for Trump as well.  (I don’t believe any of these things).  This woman was also disgusted with some of Trump’s racist remarks (especially in the wake of Charlottesville in August 2017) and told me that she was planning to write the president a letter about this.  In the end, however, she thought abortion, marriage, and Israel were more important than race when she entered the ballot box in November 2016.

A white evangelical woman also pushed-back hard against my lecture.  She did not like the way I characterized all of the 81% of white evangelicals who voted for Trump as supportive of everything the president does and says.  She was disgusted by Trump, but in the end she felt Trump would deliver on her preferred social issues in a way that Hillary Clinton would not.

I am now very familiar with these criticisms of Believe Me, but I have not been convinced by them.  Trump is bad for America and Trump is bad for the church.  I still stand by the central argument of my book.

Thanks again to Craig Hammond for inviting me to campus!  I will be at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Mass. on April 8.

Another Day in Greensboro

Back in June 2017, my family joined several Messiah College colleagues on a Civil Rights bus tour through the South.  Our first stop was Greensboro, North Carolina, where we visited North Carolina A&T State University and the International Civil Rights Center.  In 1960, four A&T students desegregated the lunch counter in the Greensboro Woolworths 5&10 store.  Today the Greensboro Woolworths is home to the International Civil Rights Center.  I wrote about my Civil Rights bus tour here and used much of the material from these posts in the final chapter of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Yesterday, I was back in Greensboro to give the 56th Annual Ward Lecture at Greensboro College.  My topic, as you might expect, was “The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.” The Ward Lecture is sponsored by the Greensboro College Religion Department and funded by the wonderful Ward family.  My opportunity to eat lunch with the Wards was one of highlights of the day.

We had a good turnout for the lecture and a robust Q&A session.  It was nice to meet so many Greensboro College students (especially Abby Bugger and Mackenzie Burns) and several folks from the area who are longtime readers of this blog.  (I also met the brother of a long-time reader of this blog!).

Thanks to Jason Myers and Dan Malotky of the Greensboro College Religion Department for hosting me.  Jason also took me back to the International Civil Rights Center for another tour.  I also got to talk with the local NBC station about Believe Me. (See video above). And if you are ever in Greensboro and are looking for a good bed & breakfast, I highly recommend the Double Oaks!

Here are some pics:

Woolworth

When in Greensboro…

Ward

 With Jean Fortner Ward. The annual Ward Lecture at Greensboro College was made possible through Jean’s husband William, who endowed the lecture to honor her contribution to Greensboro College.  Greensboro College senior religion major Abby Bugger is photobombing 🙂

Greensboro Fea 2

Talking with Bill O’Neil of WXII 12 News (NBC)

Pew Research: White Evangelical Churchgoers Continue to Support Trump

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Over at The Huffington Post, religion writer Carol Kuruvilla has a piece on the recent Pew Research report on white evangelicals and Donald Trump.  The piece includes analysis from Daniel K. Williams, Janelle Wong, and yours truly.

Here is a taste:

John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College and the author of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, told HuffPost he’s not surprised that white evangelicals’ support has remained firm more than two years into Trump’s presidency. As long as Trump continues to deliver on issues important to white evangelicals ― appointing conservative federal judges, defending religious liberty, and keeping the economy strong ― Fea believes this support will continue.

“While I am sure some white evangelicals have turned away in light of his constant lies, divisive tweets, race-baiting, and national emergency declaration, most white evangelicals are indistinguishable from the Republican Party, which continues to support Trump heavily,” Fea wrote in an email. 

“As an evangelical myself, the difference between 78% and 69% is generally meaningless. The number is still too large,” Fea added.

Pew’s recent analysis also suggested that white evangelicals who regularly attend church tend to be more supportive of Trump than less frequent attendees. This was also true of white Catholics. On the other hand, white mainline Protestants tended to have more mixed views about the president.

Read the entire piece here.

A Day in the Pacific Northwest

Whitworth

Last night the Believe Me book tour made its one and only stop in the Pacific Northwest.  Thanks to Dale Soden of Whitworth University‘s Weyerhauster Center for Christian Faith and Learning for inviting me to speak at this excellent Christian college in Spokane.

Dale even gave me a quick tour of the Gonzaga University campus. We drove past “The New Kennell,” home of the Gonzaga Bulldog basketball team on the evening they received a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.  I also learned that Bing Crosby’s boyhood home is on Gonzaga’s campus.

It was good to see my old friend Arlin Migliazzo (recently retired from Whitworth’s history department), touch base with Elise Leal (a very promising faculty member in early America who just joined the department this year and recently won the Sidney Mead Prize from the American Society of Church History), and meet so many of Whitworth’s outstanding history students.  I also got to chat briefly over lunch with Jerry Sittser, author of The Will of God as a Way of Lifea book I once taught as part of Messiah College’s first-year CORE.  Whitworth seems like a great place to work and study. It has been one of my favorite stops on the Believe Me tour.

I think it is fair to say that the audience response to my lecture was generally positive, but there were a few outliers.  Students from the Young Americans for Freedom chapter at Whitworth were out in force.  I know most of them disagreed with the central premise of my talk, but they were polite and respectable.  (The Whitworth YAF chapter is reeling in the wake of a recent controversy surrounding an invitation to conservative commentator Ben Shapiro).  Another student (I am not sure if he was part of YAF) wore a red “Make America Great Again” hat and then waited patiently after the lecture to tell me I was wrong about Trump.  We had a nice conversation and I asked him if he would read my book if I sent him a copy.  He said he would. The book will be in the mail soon.

The Q&A session was spirited, but that is how I like it.  Whitworth was a great host and the students and faculty who came to the lecture modeled civil dialogue.  I hope to come back to campus one day!

Off to Greensboro College in Greensboro, NC on Thursday.  See you there!

Meacham: At least Trump didn’t sign the Bibles in red ink

Watch presidential historian Jon Meacham talking to Joe Scarborough about Trump signing Bibles and evangelical supporters of Trump.  Here.

I agree with Meacham, but I am disappointed in him.  Last year I sat next to him at dinner before his speaking engagement at Messiah College and told him all about my book Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  I am OUTRAGED by the fact that he does not cite the book here!    🙂  (I will give Joe a break here since I have never talked to him face-to-face about Believe Me!).

People Who are Afraid Often Need a Strongman to Protect Them

Believe Me 3dIn Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald TrumpI argue that in supporting Donald Trump in 2016 white evangelicals privileged a politics of fear over a politics of hope.  People who are afraid turn to political strongmen for protection.

Over at The Atlantic, Ron Brownstein notes that “I’ll protect you” will be Trump’s 2020 reelection message.  Here is a taste:

In his marathon speech to a gathering of conservative activists last weekend, Donald Trump unloaded more than 16,000 words, according to the official White House transcript.

But amid all the meandering and asides, the belittling taunts (“Little Shifty Schiff” for Democratic Representative Adam Schiff) and geysers of grievance, Trump may have synthesized the essence of his reelection strategy in just three words toward the back end of his two-hour harangue: “I’ll protect you.”

With that concise phrase, Trump revealed volumes about his view of the electorate and the coalition that he hopes will carry him to a second term. The comment underscored his determination to convince his followers of a two-stage proposition: First, that they are “under siege,” as he put it, by an array of forces that he presented as either hostile to their interests or contemptuous of their values, and second, that only he can shield them from those threats.

That dark and martial message shows that Trump continues to prioritize energizing his core supporters—blue-collar, older, and nonurban whites uneasy about demographic, cultural, and economic change—even at the price of further alienating voters dismayed or disgusted by his behavior as president. It also shows that, even as an incumbent, Trump is drawn far more toward running on fear than on hope. 

Sounds familiar.

Read the entire piece here.

More Politics of Fear

And the politics of fear continues.  This sounds like the New England Federalists after Jefferson got elected in 1800.  Some of them thought Jefferson and his henchman would invade New England, steal their Bibles, and close their churches.   The video embedded in Aaron Rupar’s tweet confirms a major part of my argument in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

One more thing: I want to know what court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr. would actually do to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez if she comes after his cows.

My Post-*Believe Me* Speaking Plans

Believe Me 3dSeveral of you have asked me if I will still be doing public lectures after the Believe Me book tour winds down.  Yes, I am planning to continue to speak and lecture as long as the invitations keep arriving.

While my last stop on the Believe Me tour is in April at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in the Boston area, the paperback version of the book is scheduled for January 2020 and I thus imagine I will do some more speaking as part of that release.  Stay tuned.

Of course I am also available for lectures on my other books.  In addition to those books, I am currently at work on a book about the American Revolution in New Jersey and am also hoping to co-author a young adult biography of Philip Vickers Fithian.

I also have some additional news on this front.  Most of my speaking engagements will now be handled by my assistant Christine Walter.  You can learn how to contact her about a possible lecture by heading over to the Speaking page on this website.  Christine will be the point person for travel arrangements, receipts, honorariums, and just about everything else related to my schedule. She is happy to work with your institution to make something happen.

See you on the road!

PA Turnpike